Saturday, November 12, 2011


Irrepressible director Nacho Vigalondo explained in his introduction to the screening that he was stuck in a long pre-production process, and wanted to make a quick little film. That’s just what he did, with even greater economy than his impressive debut Time Crimes, but with just as sure a control over the narrative logic of escalating complications. A man wakes up in the bed of a beautiful young woman, unable to remember a thing about the night before. The playing-out of a stock situation is handled with perfectly judged restraint and deadpan performance (they discover, amusingly, that they are named Julio and Julia, but she’s ditzy enough to forget his name more than once). The awkward morning after is derailed, however, when they notice that there’s no-one outside and that a 4-mile wide flying saucer is hovering over Madrid.

Before too long Julia’s enamoured neighbor Ángel, turns up, having stayed in the city to be near Julia, but to Julio’s alarm, her boyfriend Carlos also returns. Vigalondo lets the UFO dictate part of the situation, but it is essentially the excuse for a bedroom farce, poker-faced Spanish style. As played by the lanky, strong-nosed Julián Villagrán, Julio is an appealing, easy-going chancer who can scarcely believe his luck at having hooked-up with the rather pretty Michelle Jenner. She’s not much more than a pretty face, although her anime-giant, slightly crossed eyes are used to amusing effect and she easily tosses off the completely unselfaware moments of dumbness she’s given (underplayed a little by the script, in fact). Ángel (Carlos Areces) meanwhile, is a spot-on, speccy pest, and Carlos, played with perfect, blithe seriousness by Raúl Cimas, is the man in charge, the man who can accomplish anything except see what’s under his nose.

Carlos is a cheerful cuckold, undone by his good-natured, trusting heart, and he’s placed in a situation of ridicule, though never belittled. Julio and Julia’s lies upon lies to conceal their tryst run all four around in circles, but the film allows them moments of quiet gingerly to sound out their new relationship. Carlos is allowed to maintain his dignity, going underground to hunt out the extraterrestrial infiltrators the pair has invented. Julio and Julia come slowly and unshowily to recognize their bad behavior and Julio gains some nobility of his own with his biggest lie yet. Vigalando never lets farce take over entirely, nor lets the characters slip into caricature, but he keeps the laughs coming (there’s also an amusingly inept and angry underground TV broadcaster) and totally avoids sentimentalizing the doing-the-right thing resolutions. Julio ends up drinking beer with the TV guy, sitting on the roof watching the still-impassive flying saucer, chewing the fat and chilling out. The film is no more serious than that, but it is played and plays out with such deftness, good humour, and skilful lightness of touch to character, that it is completely charming.

d/sc Nacho Vigalondo p Nahikari Ipiña ph Jon D. Domínguez ad Idoia Esteban m Jorge Magaz cast Julián Villagrán, Michelle Jenner, Raúl Cimas, Carlos Areces, Miguel Noguera
(2011, Sp, 90m)


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